Protesters targeted the homes of two Vancouver city attorneys over the weekend in response to a criminal charge against a local business owner, who allegedly violated Gov. Jay Inslee’s stay-at-home order by reopening her pet grooming shop in May.
On Sunday, people first gathered in front of the home of city attorney Kevin McClure, who filed the case against Kelly C. Carroll, 61, of Battle Ground, on June 5.
Videos online indicate the group stayed at McClure’s home for six to seven hours. Afterward, they moved their protest to city attorney Jonathan Young’s house in Vancouver.
A Clark County sheriff’s sergeant was present for some of the rally in front of McClure’s home. Sgt. Brent Waddell said the deputy responded to facilitate a conversation between protesters and the city attorneys. Once Young spoke to the group, the deputy left, Waddell said.
People are allowed to gather in front of people’s homes, including public officials, as long as they’re peacefully protesting, Waddell said. Law enforcement would step in if protesters were blocking traffic, destroying or trespassing on property, or using threatening language, he said.
The sergeant said the group protesting Sunday did not do anything to warrant more of a response.
However, such gatherings can rise to the level of harassment, Waddell said.
“It depends on what people are doing, their words, and it’s a case-by-case basis. We have to look at the totality of the circumstances. Really, it’s a fine line between the right to protest and harassment,” he said.
Carroll faces a single count of violating an emergency order proclamation. According to an affidavit of probable cause, the case revolves around Carroll operating her business, The PetBiz at 5620 N.E. Gher Road, in spite of the governor’s order, Proclamation 20-25.
The affidavit says Carroll’s grooming shop is in the nonessential category, meaning it was not eligible to continue doing business while the stay-at-home order was in place. Carroll publicized her intent to reopen against the governor’s order and organized a May 16 rally at her shop, according to the affidavit. A Vancouver police officer contacted Carroll at her shop three days later. The shop was open, and the officer observed a customer pay for services with a credit card, court records say.
The right-wing group Patriot Prayer created an event page calling on people to gather at McClure’s home. The aim of the rally was to pressure the city to drop the charge and ensure no one will be similarly charged.
Joey Gibson, Patriot Prayer’s founder, said the rally was organized by various groups, including People’s Rights Washington, which bills itself as an organization that stands up for people whose constitutional rights have been violated but has been called an alt-right extremist group in some news reports. The group did not respond to a request for comment.
City attorneys are currently working from home due to the pandemic, so McClure’s home seemed like the most logical location to hold the rally, Gibson said. The group wanted to inspire McClure to do the right thing and drop the charge, he said.
“We were asking him to be with us in this fight. It wasn’t to scare him, or threaten him,” Gibson said. “What’s going on is a power grab. We’ve never seen anything like this, and if we don’t come together and fight for working people, (Carroll) will be the first of many” to face charges.
“We all need to make money. We’re all essential,” Gibson said.
Videos on social media show 100 or so people gathered on the street outside the prosecutor’s suburban home. Families, including children, can be seen with signs reading “Kelly is not a criminal,” “Re-open” and “Inslee for Jail.”
They filled the residential street, sang songs, chanted “drop the charges” and demanded McClure exit his home and address them.
After protesters spent what they estimated was most of the day in front of the home, Young stepped to the edge of McClure’s front yard and told the crowd he was taking on the case while his employee was on furlough.
“I have no intention whatsoever of discussing Ms. Carroll’s case with any of you today. That would be inappropriate under the professional rules of conduct,” Young told the crowd, which scoffed and retorted that the charge against Carroll was inappropriate.
“I would encourage all of you to leave Kevin and his family alone. It’s no longer his decision whether or not my office continues to pursue this case,” Young said, adding it was his responsibility.
Young drove away after giving the statement. Some of the protesters then moved the rally to his house, as seen in another video posted online. The protesters shouted “Uphold the Constitution” and waved American flags until twilight turned to night.
Neither McClure nor Young returned requests for comment.